Colombian Man Sentenced To More Than 24 Years For Smuggling Cocaine On Board A Fishing Vessel
Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell has sentenced Carlos Eyder Paz-Utima (41, Colombia, South America) to 24 years and 4 months in federal prison for conspiring with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and for conspiring with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine intending that it be unlawfully imported into the United States. He pleaded guilty on December 19, 2016.
According to court documents, Paz-Utima was responsible for several marine smuggling ventures in international waters of the Caribbean Sea. In September 2011, the United States Coast Guard interdicted a load of over 1,000 kilograms of cocaine that was being smuggled aboard the fishing vessel Diamada. Paz-Utima was the organizer and an investor in the drug trafficking organization, and was responsible for at least three other maritime smuggling ventures aboard vessels traveling from Colombia to Honduras.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) comprised of agents and analysts from the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Ruddy and Special Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca L. Castaneda.